Friday, October 2, 2009

Get Grounded

October 4

Get Grounded

October 13th, 2009 @ 8:00, The Drake Hotel

A Concert toBuild Awareness of Mental Illness and Suicide

So often mental illness and suicide are never talked about and people are left to struggle in silence. It takes courage to bring these issues out of the shadows. Mandi Siatkowski is the courageous voice of Get Grounded, a benefit concert celebrating her brother’s life.

On October 14th, 2004, Mandi lost her brother to suicide. In Mandi’s own words: “My bother Daniel was a beautiful person, a sensitive soul and my best friend.”

To mark the 5-year anniversary of her family’s loss, Mandi has organized this benefit concert to support people living with mental illness. She has arranged a lineup of exciting Canadian musicians. She will be sharing the stage with Canadian artists Grainne Ryan, Darryl Costello, and Roma Page. Collectively, these artists have been influenced by Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Radiohead and Peter Gabriel.

Come out for a night of music and celebration.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 4 to October 10

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Why Mental Illness Awareness Week? For too long, Canadians with mental illnesses have been in the shadows. Too few Canadians know about the burden of mental illness on our society, and too few sufferers seek help when they need it. Mental Illness Awareness Week seeks to raise awareness of the level of mental illness in Canada; to reduce negative stigma about mental illness amongst the general population and health care professionals; and to promote the positive effects of best practice in prevention, diagnosis and medical treatment.

If anyone can appreciate the need for buiding awareness about mental illness it would be our family. Oh, wait ... we are not alone - we are joined by the hundreds of thousands of other families, millions even, that live with the effects of mental illness every day. Too many people are silent about their experience, too many people suffer in the shadows. There is hope out there and with the right treatment there is recovery.

Recovery is possible. That's worth repeating. R e c o v e r y i s p o s s i b l e.

In fact, surveys show that between 80 % and 90% of people with a mental illness that seek help recover and go on to lead full and satisfying lives.

But . . . and wait for it because it's a big one . . .

Only one third of those who need mental health services in Canada actually receive them.

Why? you ask. Well, since you did, here goes.

Forty six percent of Canadians think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour; and 27% are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness.

Only 12% of Canadians said they would hire a lawyer who has a mental illness, and only 49% said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness.

Just 50% of Canadians would tell friends or co workers that they have a family member with a mental illness compared to 72% who would discuss diagnoses of cancer or 68% diabetes in the family.

And all of the above is negative stereotypes and discrimination and that spells stigma.

Stigma is reported to be the greatest barrier preventing people from seeking treatment for symptoms of mental illness.

It's time to break down the barriers and erase the stigma. It's time to talk about mental illness... out loud.

Awareness works to open minds and open hearts.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peace Ranch

September 13

Several months ago Deb tracked us down out on the road and did a radio interview for Caledon Today. She told us that in her other life she was connected to Peace Ranch and invited us to attend their 15th Annual Open House in the fall after The Ride. Yesterday we drove out to Caledon to take part in their country fair. We had a great time - there was a BBQ featuring fresh corn and salads from their gardens, crafts and baked goodies, games, and a petting zoo.

Peace Ranch is a community mental health agency offering supportive housing and social recreation rehab programs for adults with schizophrenia. A century farmhouse on 25 acres of beautiful Ontario farmland provides a peaceful, rural setting for individuals working toward recovery. Offering programs of horticulture, animal husbandry, equestrian, fitness, art and music the social rehabilitation service promotes wellness and recovery.

Mary gave us a complete tour of the site. We met Rosie the pot bellied pig, then visited the barn housing goats, sheep and even an alpaca or two. Darlene gave us a spining demonstration using the soft alpaca wool. All the while we dodged the noisy and entusiatic Morriss Dancers.

In addition, Peace Ranch offers day programs for the Peel Dufferin community and operates several housing sites in Brampton, Caledon and Orangeville allowing residents to live independently and continue their recovery.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Golf day at Galt

September 10,

The Golf Tournament at the Galt Country Club for The Ride for Mental Health was good for everyone's mental health. That is except for Bob and Kathy who barely survived a near death experience. Luckily no harm done (I'm sure they can pop out the dent in the roof of the cart.)
Anne and Bill filled the course with golfers, many of whom had come from quite a distance, and all proceeds from the day's event will go to The Grand River Branch of the CMHA. The course was challenging and certainly tested the skills of our foursome - well, three of us for sure. OK, just me. Good thing I won a sleeve of balls in the lucky draw, though.
There was drama off the course too. Bob, our MC for the night conducted a live auction for one of Mel's riding jerseys and bidding was fast and furious. Now you just have to buy a bike to go with the jersey, Jim.
And the drama didn't stop there. The 50/50 elimination draw left two men standing but only one could win. Would they each take their chances and go it alone? Would they pool the tickets and split the pot? But they had a plan. The guys made a pact to donate all cash to the CMHA. Everyone came up a winner.
It was great to see so many friends out to support The Ride for Mental Health even after the wheels have stopped turning (for now, anyway.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thank You Xerox!

September 6
We are finally back home, which means Carol, Lindsay and I have a much needed break and an opportunity to reflect on our amazing journey across Canada. Top of mind for each of us is the overwhelming support for the Ride For Mental Health in every city and town along the route. The people of Xerox have always reached out to support one another, and the Ride is a fine example. Whether we needed a website to be developed, the theme song Open Minds Open Hearts to be written and produced, a blog to be set up, experienced riders to pull us through mountains, hills and river valleys, or hundreds of hours of planning and execution of no less than 16 awareness and fund raising events across Canada, the Xerox team was always there for us. What an amazing statement about the Xerox culture of caring and teamwork and being there for one another when we need it most. Although it is difficult to measure mental health awareness, I am comfortable in declaring that this 100 day campaign has been successful beyond all expectations. The funds raised will be in excess of $200,000 when we close the books in another month. The mental health awareness that we have all helped to create through the many local events is unprecedented in Xerox and I suspect in any Canadian corporation. As I have said many times this year, awareness works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. The Ride For Mental Health has been a solid start to bringing mental illness out of the shadows. My daughter Lindsay has had the courage to discuss her mental illness openly in every day language in front of groups and in classrooms across Canada. I am proud of our progress and realize we have just begun the journey. There is so much more opportunity. This is exactly how we must view it - as a big opportunity for each individual and for Xerox .
Thank you for your enthusiastic support. It means the world to the Thompson family and to the tens of thousands of other families who live with mental illness every day.
Awareness works! Stay tuned for regular updates to the Blog.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Heading Home

September 2

We are on our way home now. Yet another ferry traversed successfully. Fourteen hours then we touched down in North Sydney at about 6:30 am and hit the road. Definitely our earliest start.The bikes are on the rack. It seems strange to be moving along at the actual speed limit with the riders in the RV with me. For the most part we will be taking a different route home than we took to get here. Speed and efficiency versus bike friendly and safety.
Oh, the sights we have seen. It's pretty amazing to think back over the last 15 weeks or so. We have pictures in the camera and pictures in our heads to last a lifetime. Canada is one beautiful country. And big. And the people we have met, the hundreds of people, helping us to acheive our goals of raising awareness about mental uillness, reducing stigma and raising funds, or just helping because that's the way they are.
Yesterday, our last day in Newfoundland we went for lunch to Quidi Vidi, a quaint little village near St. John's . The houses and buidings are spread around kind of haphazard so we parked kind of haphazard too. As we got out of the RV and were milling about with cameras and jackets I noticed a pick up truck waiting patiently behind the RV. I though maybe he wanted our parking spot so I walked over to explain. "That's a pretty colourful looking thing." he said referring to our home. I thought to myself that was quite something coming from Newfoundland, the land of primary colours. We talked about The Ride for Mental Health and the fundraising. "Do you have twenty dollars?" he asked. Wait a minute . . . Then he continued "I'll give you fifty for a twenty. That's a good deal." It is a good deal because every dollar in donations stays in the community to support local programs and services. I know John Abbot and Colleen Hanrahan of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the CMHA will put this donation and the others to good use.

The actual cross Canada bike ride may have come to an end but The Ride for Mental Health is still going strong. There's a long way to go yet.

St. John's - goin down the road

August 29

Day 103 . Mile 7587. The epic bike ride has crossed the finish line.

Our riders, Mel, Lindsay, Ben and Tracey started out bright and early from where the chip wagon isn't on the beach at Holyrood. Tracey guided us on the Admiral's coast route into Bowring Park in St. John's where we were greeted by a small but enthusiastic group. Then we headed down to the harbour for the traditional wheel dipping. Harder than you might think. There isn't any easy access to the water - no beach anyway - in the downtown area. We ended up at a dock at Harbourside Park by the War Memorial. Mel showed off his mountain climbing skills by clambouring down the rocks with his bike. No easy feat with biking shoes. The good news is that only the bike got dipped.

In the last week our schedule was lighter on the riding than in past weeks and months. So it seemed we were cooling our jets a lot waiting for the ferry and on the crossing. It's nice to be finished the ride. There's a tremendous sense of accomplishment and we've had a great time here in St. John's - very relaxing - met some terrific people.

It's pretty easy to measure the success of a cross-Canada bike ride - there's the number of days on the road, number of kilometers ridden, bottles of Gatorade consumed. There's a clear beginning and an clear ending.

It's a different story to evaluate our goal of raising awareness about mental illness. There is no baseline and no way to measure progress, and there is no research ongoing that we are aware of. I know hundreds of people have come out to the events across the country, and many thousands more people have visited the website and the blog, viewed the TV interviews and read the many newspaper articles that have been written along the way. But are we being clear with the message? Are we having an impact on stigma? We just have to hope and believe that this is more than a long, a very long, cycling tour and family vacation.

We head for home on Tuesday when we catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia. It's going to feel funny being home and getting back to real life after all this time. I know Mel is excited about re-joining his team at Xerox and is already setting up meetings for his return. Several events and speaking opportunities are on our calendar September and we will continue to find opportunites to build mental health awareness and acceptance, reduce stigma and rasie funds for programs to support those experiencing mental illness.

Thanks for all your support throughout this amazing journey and please stay tuned to this page for regular updates.